Rapid Response is a documentary that shows the steps taken to bring the safety and trackside response and care you now see at race circuits around the world.
The documentary is all about American racing, that is pretty much solely on the 500 races and the Indy 500 as this is where a lot of the early healthcare took place.
If follows Stephen Olvey (based on his book) who, as a medical student, was asked to volunteer at an Indy 500 race on the medical team. This was a dram for Olvey who, if he hadn’t gone into medicine, would have been a racing driver.
It takes some 30 years in total for the group that Olvey eventually puts together, to reach the heights of safety in motorsport you know now.
In the beginning there were many, many deaths and many, many injuries, a lot of which resulted in amputation. Because the cars are rear engined, the drivers were pushed further and further forward.
When they then crashed into the concrete walls around the circuits, it was their feet and legs that took the brunt of the impact, more often than not, resulting in them being amputated.
When a young doctor Terry Trammell is brought to a track one day, he hates every minute of it. As he himself says, he’s young and had no idea what to do if a major accident should occur.
Despite this, his boss makes him go back time and time again. On one of his early ventures a driver crashes, badly injuring his feet. Most immediately think his feet will need to be amputated but Trammell has other ideas, convinced his first position isn’t going to be removing a part of someone!
Saving the drivers feet, Trammell and Olvey begin working closer and closer together and, together with others, they form a crack team that will travel with the Indy circus to circuits across the country.
It’s this standardisation, along with the acceptance by the race teams and circuit owners that things need to change, that sees more and more safety features being introduced. Drivers still crashed, but they began to walk away, sometimes from horrific crashes.
Rapid Response is an interesting documentary, fans of the sport will no doubt lap it up. However, it is very focussed on Indy, not just motorsport, so the context is lost at times as to if what’s being introduced is ahead of the curve or way behind what others are doing.
This begins to get frustrating, the documentary also left me with more questions than it answered, and I don’t feel that should ever be the case with a documentary. Perhaps about peripheral items around it, but not about the main central theme.
For fans of Indy 500 racing, or racing crashes, Rapid Response will be right up your street. But if you are looking for something that talks about safety across motorsport in general, this isn’t the documentary for you.